Binary Call Options Theta

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Binary call options theta measures the change in the value of the binary call option owing to the shortening of the time to expiry. It is represented as:

\Theta = \frac{dP}{dt}

where P is binary call value and t is time to expiry.

If theta is positive the option increases in value over time while if negative it decreases in value over time: if

  • the call option is out-of-the-money then the binary call option theta will be negative.
  • the binary call option is in-the-money then the binary call option theta will be positive.
  • when the option is at-the-money the theta is zero.

This is because as time decreases there is less chance of the out-of-the-money option becoming in-the-money. When the former it remains a loser, the latter a winner. By the same token, the in-the-money option has progressively less time to fall out-of-the-money and turn into a loser.

When the asset price equals the the strike price the theta is zero. This is because an at-the-money call option is always worth 50. This reflects that irrespective of time to expiry the option always has a 50:50 chance of being a winner or loser.

Figures 1 & 2 represent the binary call option theta profiles with respect to time remaining to expiry (Fig.1) and implied volatility (Fig.2).

Binary Call Option Over Time

The binary call theta shows that as time to expiry decreases the theta profiles concertina to the strike.

When there are 25 days to expiry the high and low of the theta are at their most distant from strike. They also have the lowest absolute values.

The 0.1 day to expiry profile has the peak and trough closest to the strike. The absolute value of the minimum and maximum theta reaches unrealistically high levels.

The theta is lower when more time to expiry, a common rule irrespective of conventional or binary instrument. In the instance of the binary call the theta has its absolute value highest and closest to the strike the least time to expiry.

Binary Call Options Theta
Figure 1 – Binary Call Options Theta w.r.t. Time

In the instance of Figure 1 the 0.1-day theta at 99.90 is -1.0025 (or -100.25 if pricing the winning option at 100). Clearly this number is unrealistic as it exceeds the 0-1(00) binary option price range and this inaccuracy is covered in more detail under the section on Greeks.

Binary Call Theta and Volatility

Fig.2 represents the binary call theta over a range of implied volatility from 2% to 18%. Here we see that the minimum and maximum absolute values remain fairly constant but the peaks and troughs close in on the strike price as implied volatility decreases.

Binary Call Options Theta
Figure 2 – Binary Call Options Theta w.r.t. Volatility


As the time to expiry shortens the theta becomes an untrustworthy measure. Where time to expiry is less than one day the theta grossly exaggerates the decay of the option. This leads to unhelpful numbers are chucked out which can be very misleading to the uninitiated. On the other hand, with just 5 days to expiry the theta produces not unreasonable forecasts of time decay.

By: Hamish Raw

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